Never Argue With Gabby Hayes

by bj max

It all started with an E-mail from Mike Kneebone. Most of you MMM readers are familiar with Mike I’m sure, but just in case there are a few that ain’t, Mike is the Supreme Dictator of the Iron Butt Association and has been for the past umpteen years. Mike’s E-mail was an invitation to attend the Iron Butt Association’s annual banquet to be held in conjunction with Bike Week 2003. A trip to Florida in March. Hmm. We could do the IBA thing plus attend the AMA Daytona 200 on Sunday. Might be fun plus it would provide the perfect opportunity to field test my new GPS, a Christmas present from my wife. I contacted two long time riding companions to see if they might be interested in making the trip. They were and we began making plans.

My wife, probably because of my propensity to lose myself in even the most familiar of places, went all out and bought the Garmin GPS-V DeLuxe Package. DeLuxe meaning detail mapping software included. I can sit here in the comfort of my home and plan up to twenty routes then save them into the GPS for later use. The GPS-V comes with a base map in its internal memory that includes roads, exit services and land marks for the Continental United States. And you can download twenty MB of detailed maps from the CD that comes with the DeLuxe Package. The detailed maps have almost every address in the country. Let’s say I want to navigate from my house to yours. Using the GPS rocker pad I simply type in your address, highlight GOTO, press the enter button and wait about 15 seconds for the GPS to calculate either the shortest or quickest route, my choice, to your home. The GPS will then track me all the way with pop-ups and arrows directing me when and where to turn. In the meantime, you get a barrel load of information such as, elevation, longitude and latitude, ETA. It will also give you your speed, your average speed, calculate gas mileage and the internal clock, controlled by an atomic clock within the satellites, is accurate to within two seconds every million years. That’s almost good enough for my boss.

On a cold thirty-one degree morning I met Iron Butt aficionado’s Stan Viets and Floyd Nunnelee at a truck stop near the edge of town and we quickly put the big city in our mirror. After the first fifty miles, the cold didn’t seem to be as much of a factor anymore. Frostbite had set in most likely. We were headed south toward warmer climes too and that bucked up our spirit so we soldiered on despite wind chills of five below. We finally reached those warmer climes near the Alabama line. Then the rain came. And it rained and rained and then rained some more.

In front of me, like a tiny television, my personal navigator tracked our every move as we headed south. The Garmin GPS-V is an amazing little contraption. At first I was a bit intimidated by this new fangled hi-tech navigational aid but, as with all computers, mastering them comes with practice. And I practiced. Around town in my pickup as well as road trips in my eighteen wheeler. But playing with the GPS is one thing. To depend on it in an unfamiliar setting was another. My confidence in the GPS as well as my ability to operate it was seriously in doubt and gave me pause. But as time went by and I became more familiar with the little gizmo, I learned to trust it. I didn’t know it at the time but it would eventually become a trusty friend. A sidekick if you will. And all good sidekicks need a handle so I nicknamed it Gabby Hayes, Gabby for short.

We spent the first night in Pensacola and woke up to more rain and heavy weather. Severe storms were in the forecast and a tornado was sighted in Southern Georgia, not far from where we were. Fortunately we didn’t run into any tornadoes but we did experience lightning, wind and tropical squalls all day long. Exposed to the elements, the Garmin GPS, as advertised, proved itself impervious to water.

At a gas stop one hundred miles from our destination, I typed the address to our motel into the GPS. This would be the first real world test of my new toy. From this point on, I reluctantly let Gabby handle the navigational chores. We were routed around Jacksonville, south on I-95, then dumped onto Highway One into downtown St. Augustine where we were steered left and right through several city streets until eventually we found ourselves parked under the awning of the Ramada Inn. We did nothing but follow instructions and the GPS lead us right to our motel lobby. Amazing.

We got checked in, changed into some dry clothes, freshened up and even though it quit raining the very millisecond we pulled into the motel, we were suspicious of Mother Nature and suited up for the run to the IBA banquet. I had created a route to the banquet a week earlier on my PC, then downloaded it into the GPS. To use this route, I went to my list of stored routes, highlighted the “IBA Banquet Ride”, clicked GOTO and instantly Gabby informed me that he was ready to Navigate. With Gabby pointing the way we rolled out of the parking lot without having so much as glanced at a conventional map.

Floyd had attended the last banquet and when we encountered a road sign indicating a right turn towards I-95 he argued that we should go that way because the banquet was just off I-95 in Palm Coast. I explained that the GPS was not indicating a turn. Then Stan hinted that the I-95 route might be our best bet. With all this lobbying going on in my headset, I began to doubt the GPS too but eventually decided to continue on. This had now evolved into a classic struggle between human logic and modern technology and I for one was curious to see if all this new hi-tech wizardry was truly dominant.

Ten minutes later we passed under I-95, followed Gabby’s instructions and hooked a hard left, sped up the ramp and headed south to the next exit. Down the ramp, left turn, another left at the light and one-mile later we pulled into the Knights of Columbus parking lot, site of this year’s IBA banquet. By following Gabby’s directions we probably shaved four or five miles off the trip. The I-95 sign we were tempted to follow would have taken us to our destination eventually but only after backtracking at a forty-five degree angle for several miles. For the second time today, my sidekick had proven its reliability and my confidence in this jaw dropping technology moved up a notch.

Dinner was still an hour away, so we strolled around the parking lot, kicking tires and visiting with a few old acquaintances. As we shook hands here and there and mixed and mingled I noticed that probably ninety five percent of the two-wheeled machinery on hand was equipped with a GPS of one kind or another. And I learned that next years Iron Butt Rally would almost require that you have a GPS because some of the bonus point locations would be coordinates only. The Evil Darth Kneebone has been working late it seems.

I made contact once again with Ohio’s own Eddie James. When I first met Eddie in Madison, Alabama last year he was actually participating in the rally and was pretty busy so all I got to do was introduce myself. This year, Eddie wasn’t as hyper (might have been the beer) and we struck up a conversation and talked for quite a spell. I liked him.

Dinner was OK and we enjoyed ourselves. When it came time to saddle up for the trip back to the motel I simply highlighted the “invert route” in the GPS, pressed enter and it immediately routed us back to the motel the way we came inverting all the turns and directions. But we had hardly cleared the parking lot before Floyd was on the two-way suggesting that we would probably be better off using I-95 for the return trip. I ignored him and followed Gabby’s directions to the letter. But before reaching the motel, I too was once again having serious doubts about this modern day hocus-pocus.

We arrived on the outskirts of St. Augustine around midnight. As we rode along chatting about the banquet over the CB the GPS beeped and flickered. I glanced down and noticed it scrolling off street names. I knew this to be a programmed alert announcing an upcoming turn. But this can’t be, I argued. It’s way too soon. The GPS blinked again and displayed an arrow that indicated a hard right on Sebastian Ave.

At this point you have to understand that we didn’t have a clue where we were. All we knew is that we were in a strange town eight hundred miles from home in the middle of the night. Not a comfortable feeling. Adding to the uncertainty was Sebastian Avenue itself. Dark and creepy, like Zorro’s cave, the entrance was almost hidden by tall weeds. This does not look good and my faith in Gabby wavered. A man could get neutered back here. But, despite my doubts, I cowboyed up and banked right into the narrow little entranceway. What else could I do?

A quarter mile ahead I could see that the street T-boned into another and Gabby announced a hard right. I followed instructions. As I straightened up I couldn’t believe my eyes. Not twenty yards in front of us was the lobby of our motel. Yessss!

We rolled into parking spaces next to a couple dozen other bikes and came to a stop. I turned off the ignition, dropped the kickstand and as I dismounted Stan and Floyd came rushing up grinning with relief, shook my hand vigorously and patted Gabby affectionately on the head. We were now true believers in GPS technology and history will surely record that in the parking lot of the San Marco Ramada Inn in downtown St. Augustine, March 7th, 2003 three rednecks from Tennessee coined a new phrase.

Never argue with a GPS.

M.M.M.

 

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